EgyptAir plans to add the first standard-size cargo jet to its fleet early next year after signing an agreement with Aeronautical Engineers Inc. to reconfigure a used 737-800 passenger plane for dedicated cargo service.
Miami-based AEI said Monday that modification work will begin in October at authorized conversion center Commercial Jet, also in Miami. EgyptAir will own the plane and send it to Miami for installation of a wide cargo door, reinforced flooring and a cargo handling system, and other changes to enable container storage on the upper deck.
EgyptAir’s cargo operations have grown during the COVID crisis. It has started new routes to accommodate the need to transport medical items and agricultural products.
EgyptAir owns and operates three Airbus A330-200 freighters, each with a payload capacity of 60 tons.
“This order is part of EgyptAir’s cargo and passenger fleet modernization plan,” said Chairman and CEO Amr Abu El-Enein in a news release. “We will continue to increase the size of our fleet and open new freighter markets in the coming years to meet the growing needs of the local market in terms of exporting goods abroad, especially crops.”
AEI’s 737-800 conversion design offers a main deck payload of up to 26 tons, with 11 full-height container positions plus an additional position for a small container. Conversions take three to four months, depending on which overhaul company is doing the work using AEI’s modification kit.
AEI is the only conversion company to have authority from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a converted 737-800 for up to three hours from the nearest airport that could be used in case of an emergency, which typically applies to routes over large bodies of water. That authority extends to every country that approves AEI’s supplemental certificate for operating its modified aircraft, including the European Union, China, the U.K., Canada the Cayman Islands
Air cargo operators and leasing companies are rushing to acquire aircraft and convert them because of strong forecasts for continued growth in air cargo volumes. AEI has a two-year waiting list for production slots, with 66 firm orders for the 737-800 alone.